The arrival of cool autumn weather brings truckloads of pumpkins. Their arrival to stores, farm stands, and front porches inspires the spirit of the season year after year. If you are looking for different ways to utilize this tasty gourd, consider picking up a smaller sugar pumpkin and making a delicious orange-colored risotto.
To make risotto, you will need to use the superfino variety of rice, which has the fattest and largest grains and absorbs more liquid than any other rice while still remaining firm. Superfino rice includes Arborio and Carnaroli.
If you enjoy a more soupy risotto, use a semifino variety like vialone nano. This type will release less starch. Once you find a quality brand you like, stick with it for consistent results.
There are many myths about stirring the rice. At the CIA, we teach our students that you don't need to stir the rice constantly, especially during the first 10 minutes. Keep the rice wet at all times during the first stage of cooking, and gently stir every few minutes during the simmering to make sure it stays uniformly moist and doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.
One of the keys to a successful risotto is using a high-quality broth. For the best results, it should be boiling hot when you add it to the rice in the pan.
"In Italy they say 'è' un peccato mortale' (it's a mortal sin) to use the wrong pot to cook risotto," says CIA Chef Gianni Scappin. "You need a deep stainless steel sautoir, which is a saucepan with straight sides, a heavy bottom, and a handle. Absolutely avoid using a sauté pan or skillet, because the liquid will evaporate too quickly before the rice has a chance to absorb it."
Chef Scappin adds that there is also strong sentiment in Italy regarding the proper way to both serve and eat risotto. Serving it in a bowl instead of on a flat plate is another "peccato mortale." Eat your risotto from the outside edge of the plate inward, so that the rice has time to cool slightly as you eat it, enabling you to really enjoy the flavor.
The following recipe is from The Culinary Institute of America's Pasta cookbook (2013, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.), available for purchase at bookstores nationwide or online.
For step-by-step demonstrations, go to the CIA website to watch Chef Scappin working with fresh pumpkin and preparing Risotto con Zucce e Parmigiano.
For more information about the Culinary Institute of America, visit online at www.ciachef.edu.